Sunday, July 23, 2017

William Cullen Bryant to Miss Catherine Maria Sedgwick, June 26, 1865

roslyn, June 26, 1865

I have for some time past thought of writing to you, by way of congratulating you on the suppression of the rebellion and the close of our bloody Civil War. And yet I have nothing to say on the subject which is not absolutely commonplace. All that can be said of the terrible grandeur of the struggle which we have gone through, of the vastness and formidable nature of the conspiracy against the life of our republic, of the atrocious crimes of the conspirators, of the valor and self-sacrificing spirit and unshaken constancy of the North, and of the magnificent result which Providence has brought out of so much wickedness and so much suffering, has been said already over and over.

Never, I think, was any great moral lesson so powerfully inculcated by political history. What the critics call poetic justice has been as perfectly accomplished as it could have been in any imaginary series of events.

When I think of this great conflict, and its great issues, my mind reverts to the grand imagery of the Apocalypse — to the visions in which the messengers of God came down to do his bidding among the nations, to reap the earth, ripe for the harvest, and gather the spoil of the vineyards; to tread the wine-press, till it flows over far and wide with blood; to pour out the phials of God's judgments upon the earth, and turn its rivers into blood; and, finally, to bind the dragon, and thrust him down into the bottomless pit.

Neither you nor I, until this war began, thought that slavery would disappear from our country until more than one generation had passed away; yet a greater than man has taken the work in hand, and it is done in four years. It is a great thing to have lived long enough to see this mighty evil wrenched up from our soil by the roots and thrown into the flames.

SOURCE: Parke Godwin, A Biography of William Cullen Bryant, Volume 1, p. 227-8

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